Janvrin’s Island History!!

Janvrin’s Island was deeded to John Janvrin on 13 March 1794. The Janvrin family was one of many who came to the area from Jersey, one of the Channel Islands from England and France, to establish fish plants.Janvrin Island. History states that, the Janvrin Family was wealthy merchants and that this island was one of the first places the family operated. John Janvrin was a businessman, politician, and militia officer. He was the son of Brelade Janvrin and Elizabeth de Lecoq, and he married Esther Elizabeth Filleul and they had three sons and eight daughters. This Jersey family had a long seagoing tradition. They were merchants, sailors, shipmasters, and ship owners, and some were trading with North America by the 17th century. In 1783, perhaps even a little earlier, two of John’s brothers, acting as “Phillip and Francis Janvrin and Company”, set up a fishing establishment at the Acadian village of Arichat on Isle Madame. 

At the same time the Janvrin’s went into business on the Isle de la Madeline, which also has an Acadian population. This maritime business, with which John would soon be associated, was carried on for a score of years. Around 1790 the brothers established themselves in the Gaspe region on the bay of that name. The youngest of the three, John was the only one who came to live on the North American continent, where he spent many years. He first managed the Isle Madame establishment, taking up residence here towards the end of the 1780’s. Shortly after settling, he founded his own firm, John Janvrin and Company, and went into the fish and retail trade on Cape Breton. The October 1792 census listed him as a merchant connected with the Arichat fisheries. Later he operated a shipbuilding yard in Arichat and owned some merchant ships, in particular the cutter “Providence” in 1806.

John Janvrin was granted a tract of land on Janvrin’s Island under the governorship of William MacCormick. The tract of land Janvrin’s owned was comprised of 1000 or 1500 acres. He set up a fishing post in Janvrin’s Harbour and stayed for a while before returning to Arichat. Through the years he sold or rented to fishermen various small properties on the island. The government of Nova Scotia repossessed it around 1894. A story is told that when John Janvrin left Janvrin’s Island he made George Dorey promise to call the harbour Janvrin’s Harbour after him.

In May 1795 William MacCormick authorized John Janvrin and Company to occupy Bernard Island, a small island of some 40 acres located northeast of Isle Madame, near the village of D’Escousse, to carry on commercial undertaking. However Janvrin seemed to take little interest in the Island an early in the 1820’s it was granted to a local fisherman, John Joyce, who laid claim to it on the grounds that Janvrin had never settled there.

In 1799 the Janvrin’s brothers were operating a trading vessel, the “Lottery”, and during the Napoleonic Wars they outfitted privateers.
Janvrin Island
Other members of the Janvrin’s family include Frederick, Phillip, and Daniel. All of these men owned parcels of land around Isle Madame, and all were involved in the fishing industry on Janvrin’s Island and Isle Madame, including Arichat, Petit de Grat and little Arichat or West Arichat. The firm of Phillip and Francis Janvrin and Company was the most important firm in the family. Around 1820 it was one of the main fishing companies on Cape Breton. It owned more than 600 acres, stores, warehouses, and wharves on Isle Madame. The arrangement with the fishermen was to provide them with their supplies, buy their cod, and through a credit system, keep them in a state of indebtedness, which was profitable to the company.

John Janvrin operated a fish factory called Janvrin’s and Company on Janvrin’s Island. It is believed that it was located at Delorier Island (Green Island). This was a good location because lobsters and other fish were in great abundance in the Strait of Canso.

All fish products were exported to the West Indies and Brazil. The holds of the vessel were lined with birch bark to keep out dampness. The Janvrin’s family company-owned boats exported it all.
Janvrin Island
In the course of the many years he spent in the Cape Breton region, John Janvrin held several important offices. For example, in the 1790’s he sat on the island’s Executive Council. For a long time he was also a Lieutenant Colonel in the militia and Justice of the Peace. He still returned regularly to Jersey, where in 1799 he married a young girl from a family of merchants. In 1800 he and his brothers were members of the local board of trade.
Around the period of 1815-17 Janvrin returned to live on the island where he was born in Jersey. In the 1820’s John Janvrin handed management of the Cape Breton business over to his eldest son, John. On 22 December 1835, at the age of 73, John, Sr. died at St Brelade. In the years between, John Jr. seems to have revived the family business. On 5 February 1829 he had paid 1 200 pounds for the facilities belonging to Phillip and Francis Janvrin and Company at Arichat, where he went to live permanently, and in 1836 he was able to send two million pounds of cod to Brazil. As for the Janvrin’s business in Gaspé, it passed to Frederick’s grandson, Frederick Jr. As time went on the Janvrin family began moving out of mercantile trade into banking and brokerage in London and on Jersey. Around the middle of the 19th century it concentrated its energies and capital in that sector of the economy. A headstone can be found in St. John’s Anglican Church in Arichat with the name John Janvrin Esq. died at 48 years in 1849.

This excerpt is from the “Nova Scotian”, 18 March 1836. “On the 22nd December, 1835 on the Island of Jersey in his 79 year of age, John Janvrin, Esq. who had long resided in Cape Breton, and during the time filled the several situations of Member of M. M. Council, Lieutenant Colonel of Militia, and Justice of the Peace, under the then existing government of that Island. His memory is still cherished to this day by the old inhabitants of that community.”

The Société Jersiaise has the receipt and letter book that shows that in 1743 he had an account with Mrs. Elizabeth Orange, widow of Philip Janvrin of the Esther, for oil and quintals of fish. “In the latter part of the eighteenth century the sons of Brelade Janvrin of Le Coin, Jersey, set up as merchants in New Brunswick, Canso, and Magdalene Islands and on the Gaspé coast in the fishing industry, but their major activity lay in the arming of privateers during the wars with France and Spain.”

In 1867, Canada was united and the Conservative government of Sir John A. MacDonald ruled the country. The new government was a problem to the people of Janvrin’s Island. They considered the land as their own, but now they had to pay for their grant of land. A lot of people could not afford this price so many lost their land. A man by the name of Captain Pelham, who was wealthy, hired surveyor and surveyed 165 acres of land. The rest of the land wasn’t paid for and was taken by the government.

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